Jo Anne Embleton
Jacksonville Daily Progress
Jacksonville's former Joe Wright Elementary campus has a new tenant, which just happens to be its neighbor, Jacksonville College.
“We're very pleased and thankful,” said Jacksonville College President Dr. Mike Smith. “We look at is as God being very gracious in answer to our prayers and meeting our needs.”
The college's programs have outgrown the space at 105 B.J. Albritton Drive, prompting college officials to look for solutions to meet current and future needs.
During Monday's JISD board meeting, trustees authorized Superintendent Dr. Joe Wardell to enter into negotiations with Hobby Lobby Realty of Oklahoma City, which Smith said has offered a unique solution for the school.
HLR, operated by the Green family of Oklahoma that also has the national Hobby Lobby crafts store chain, was the sole bidder on the Joe Wright property, offering $90,000 for the 9.296-acre Kickapoo Street property, Smith said.
Once the transaction has closed, “HLR has the right to come to Jacksonville College and lease us the property, which they have verbally agreed to do. But because of legal and tax laws, they cannot come out and say 'We are giving this to Jacksonville College right now,' but in a year and a day from when the sale is complete, they do have that right to give it a 501(c)(3) organization if they chose to,” he said. “What we're hoping for at that point is that they would see fit to give it to us, but that's not a done deal.”
In the meantime, Smith said the college will be using classrooms for college courses and providing the Jacksonville Literacy Council a dedicated meeting place as early as this fall.
The former Joe Wright School building was constructed sometime after the turn of the last century and housed both middle school and high school programs, and at one time was more commonly known as Jacksonville High School.
In 1939, an auditorium was built; followed by an elementary school in 1952 that housed grades one through six. At the beginning of the 2012-2013 school year, the program – which now goes through fourth grade – moved into a new 85,000-square-foot home on Pineda Street, leaving the site vacant for nearly a year.
Smith reiterated how blessed the college feels in being able to have use of the facility.
“Our school is growing, so we need more classrooms, and the campus is adjacent to us – with the nine acres, there (is an opportunity to consider future growth), but right now we need the classrooms,” he said.
Last fall, Jacksonville College hit an enrollment high of 560 students in its freshman-sophomore program, but the administration expects an even greater number will register this fall.
“We're anticipating 600,” Smith said.